Liverpool (AFP) – Mauricio Pochettino believes his Tottenham players have learnt from the painful experiences of last season as they prepare to kick off their Premier League campaign at Everton on Saturday.
Pochettino’s side were enjoying the club’s best season since the early 1960s as they tussled with Leicester for the Premier League title.
But they choked in the final weeks and a bad-tempered draw at Chelsea handed the title to Leicester before a humiliating 5-1 defeat at already-relegated Newcastle allowed bitter rivals Arsenal to pip them for second spot.
That added up to a bitter close-season for Tottenham supporters, but Pochettino has been focused on making things right this time and the Argentine coach is confident his players are ready to put the past behind them at Goodison Park.
“We will try to improve and learn from the past,” he said. “We need to improve a lot of things – to compete better, to behave better, to be more calm, to focus more on things that can improve the team.”
The players were told as such as soon as they returned from their pre-season tour of Australia.
“I needed a lot of meetings after Australia to talk about different things,” Pochettino added.
“It’s true we were all disappointed with the way we finished the Premier League. We need to show we are clever and learn from our mistakes.
“There’s not a lot of change in the changing room and squad and I think that can help us.”
Pochettino has added Kenya midfielder Victor Wanyama, an £11 million capture from Southampton, and Netherlands forward Vincent Janssen, who cost £17 million from AZ Alkmaar, to his playing pool.
– Admiration –
Mousa Dembele is suspended but fellow Belgian Jan Vertonghen is available again after an ankle injury picked up during Euro 2016.
As for Everton, new manager Ronald Koeman insists the Toffees will not sell Romelu Lukaku and Phil Jagielka and are looking to add three or four more players in the wake of this week’s £47.5 million loss of England defender John Stones to Manchester City.
Koeman admits some players are far below peak fitness – new signing Ashley Williams, for example, will not be used against Spurs following his midweek arrival from Swansea – and that his squad is in a state of flux.
“Changes in the team, that’s always a doubt for managers starting a season,” said Koeman.
“I knew already a long time ago of the Stones situation.
“Then what we had to do was prepare ourselves to get a player in his position and that’s Ashley Williams.
“He will bring leadership, experience, he knows the Premier League for a long time but he is still not available for the weekend because he started late because of the Euros.
“We will have talks with the board and will do business for three or four more.”
However, despite Chelsea’s long-standing interest in Lukaku and Sunderland manager David Moyes’ admiration for defender Jagielka, Koeman insists he will not be selling any more key players.
“Romelu is still an Everton player with a contract with us,” he said.
“The board make that final decision but of course I want to keep all my best players.”
Koeman, who rates his team’s current collective physical fitness at no better than 70 per cent, will be without Lukaku and full-back Seamus Coleman against Spurs due to injury.
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